Australia’s new leader Scott Morrison: ‘No easy job in politics’

Scott Morrison, Australia’s new prime minister during an interview. (Reuters pic)

HONG KONG: Scott Morrison, Australia’s new prime minister, never hid his yearning for the top job.

“Look, ambition is fairly ubiquitous in Canberra,” Morrison, 50, said in 2012, a year before the Liberal-National coalition took power and he became — successively — minister for immigration, social services and latterly treasurer in the government of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

As a politician he opposed gay marriage, mirroring the views of his evangelical church. As immigration minister he shut asylum seekers out of the country by engineering a change in the law so their applications were processed on remote Pacific Ocean islands. As Treasurer he cut taxes for low and middle-income earners.

“You can’t just take the easy jobs in politics,” Morrison said during his time as immigration minister.

He holds the southern Sydney seat of Cook, one of the country’s most socially conservative and least multicultural areas, by a solid margin of 15%.

And as for criticism of his controversial “Where the Bloody Hell Are you?” 2006 advertising campaign when he was managing director of Tourism Australia? “It fell foul of the latte elite,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2012.

Here are some of his remarks on key issues:

Immigration Minister
“What you have to do in this portfolio is just be very comfortable in your own skin about the decisions you’re taking and why you are taking them. And I am.” — November 2012, Sydney Morning Herald

Faith in Politics
“In my own church like in many others, we refer to Australia as the ‘great south land of the Holy Spirit.’ Separation of church and state does not mean the inoculation of the influence of faith on the state.

“The state shouldn’t run the church and the church shouldn’t run the state. In fact, the separation of church and state was set up to protect the church from the state, not the other way around. To protect religious freedoms.” — December, 2017, speech to parliament

Trade War
“No one wins from a global trade war and that statement is more true today than at any other time in global economic history.

“There’s some legitimate issues that have been raised by the US and those things can’t be dismissed simply because of the nature of the way these issues are unfolding.

“While some may criticize how they are doing that it doesn’t take away from the real issue that sits there.” — July, 2018 Australian Financial Review

Chinese Acquisition of Assets
“My preliminary view is that the foreign investment proposals put to me for this transaction are contrary to the national interest, in accordance with the required provision on the grounds of ­national security.

This was “not a country-specific decision” — August 2016, Australian Financial Review, regarding the decision to block a Chinese bid for electricity network Ausgrid

China Relations
“China and Australia have a very practical and strong relationship. Remember, we were the government that negotiated in completing this China-Australia free trade agreement and that agreement has been a real boom in the Australian economy and we will continue to have very strong economic ties with China. They are a big customer of ours and we’re a big customer of theirs.” December 2017, press conference

Gay Marriage
“People who have strong religious views, they have also been subject to quite dreadful hate and bigot speech as well.” — June, 2016, ABC, on the risk that the gay marriage plebiscite would foster hate speech.

Coal Industry
“This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you. Those opposite have an ideological, pathological fear of coal.” — February, 2017, parliament